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Here is a list of free and cheap things to do this summer with your family. This list especially comes in handy if you are trying to stick to your budget or working on getting out of debt. Summer fun does not have to break the bank.

I highly recommend saving and planning ahead for vacation’s and larger ticket items. With a little planning and preparation you can get great deals that you then save for when your kids are on summer break. One of my favorite things to do is purchase our Raging Waters swim passes during Black Friday, they have a super deal then our summer passes are paid for well before summer comes.

Another tip is to frequent Groupon and look for things that don’t expire that you can use for summer, last year during spring, I purchased through Groupon passes to the Sacramento Zoo at a savings, then used that during summer break.

This year I had an envelope and I put a little in each month saving for summer fun. I know when summer comes, it’s nice to be able to do fun things and lets face it, going anywhere with kids is expensive, they want food, drinks, souvenirs, lol.

Using an envelope to tuck away cash is a great idea for Summer fun, Christmas, vacation spending money. I normally don’t carry cash or use cash, so whenever I would return something and get cash, or pay for something for someone and then they gave me cash for it, instead of depositing that cash or spending it on nothing which is what normally happens, I put this ‘unexpected’ cash in our summer fun envelope.

Even if you have not been planning there are still a lot of things you can do with your family for cheap or free here are my favorites.

Summer Movie Theater Program

Cinemark has what they call Summer Movie Clubhouse. If you buy a pass in advance you can pay $5 to watch ten films. Or if you want to partake in just a few of the films it only costs $1 per film. All films are rated G or PG. At my local Cinemark, all show times are at 10 AM on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. You can find more details on my blog or on their site.

This is a great way to stay out of the heat during summer break! This starts in June and goes through August, most of the films you might have already seen, but again, it’s fun for young kids to watch it on the big screen and get out of the house.

This is great for taking a little one to the theater, so you can see how they sit through a movie before you take them and pay full price for a movie ticket. I do recommend getting to the theater early as it is based on a first come first serve basis and some films do tend to sell out.

The Regal Entertainment Group does the Summer Movie Express, in my local area showings are $1 each move on Tuesday’s and Wednesdays at 10 AM. You can find more information and schedule of movies for your local area on their site.


Select bowling centers participate in Kids Bowl Free Summer Program. Registered kids receive two free games of bowling daily. You only have to pay for the rental bowling shoes. They also offer a Family Pass option that allows for up to 4 adults to bowl 2 FREE games every day all summer too. It’s only $24.95 and it allows parents, older children, adult babysitters and grandparents to join in the bowling fun too. The pass is great to incorporate into your date nights with your spouse too! You can find the link to register and find information on my blog.


Select skating centers participate in Kids Skate Free. Once registered at your local skating center. You will then receive a weekly e-mail with your weekly passes to print for select times depending on your center.
Local Libraries

Did you know there are 28 libraries in Sacramento County? Visit a library you have never visited. This will also help your children read during summer break. Many libraries have story time and other free events as well. Here is a link to a post on my blog where I share information on the Downtown Sacramento Library, it is a great one to start with and make a stop at the State Capitol for a picnic lunch in the gardens.

Local Retail Classes

My local Home Depot, Lowe’s and Michael’s Retail Stores offer free workshops. Some for adults and some weekend craft projects for kids ages 5-12. Call or search on-line for free workshops or classes that you can do with the kids.

Community Pool

Visit your local community pool. Most only costs a few dollars per person to swim all day. Find out of they have a summer pass with more savings to enable you to swim all summer long.

Local Parks & Local Spray Grounds

Many times people visit the same local park that is near their home. Explore and find local parks all around town. This is a fun adventure to tackle and it’s FREE. Find out where your local parks with water features or splash pads are.

Game Night or Day with Friends

Plan an evening or in the middle of the day with other families who are on summer break and host a family game night! You can make it a potluck, so everyone brings a dish, dessert, or finger food to share. Set up an area in the backyard or part of the house for the kids to play games, their type of board games or Xbox, or a Lego building station, etc. Then have the adult games, poker, charades, or whichever games you enjoy.

Movies or Concerts at the Park

In my local town they have quite a few different venues that offer free concerts in the park and free movies on a big screen at a park or even at our local Mall. This is another great way to spend a summer evening as a family or on a date night with your spouse that will cost you nothing if you pack a lunch or eat before you go. Or can have a low cost if you plan on eating from a food truck or somewhere near the venue beforehand.

Camp in the Backyard

I love camping and grew up camping quite a bit during the summer. If you cannot travel far or want to cut back on spending, set up camp right in your own backyard. My boys love to do this. We make s’mores, have the luxury of the bathroom when needed and they have a blast.

Find things you like to do and inquire about volunteering at that local establishment. Do you like animals, you can volunteer at your local zoo. Do you like to golf? Maybe you can volunteer or help at events in trade for time on the putting green. Give back to your local community, not only is it FREE, you will feel great about giving back and making a difference this is also great to do with your children, check with your local food kitchen, your local church, community clean-up’s, etc.

Visit your Local Fire Station

Call your local Fire Station and see if you can plan a visit to tour the fire station and see the fire truck up close. You could also take them some baked goods or a meal. Fire Stations often host open house events, let your children meet your local heroes.

Community Center

Visit your local community center. Many times they have groups you can join, dance groups, scrap-booking groups and a variety of groups, some might cost a small fee, and others might be free. Your local community center is a great resource to find out what is happening locally for free or cheap.


If you are familiar with Pinterest I am sure you have plenty of things pinned that you would love to do or hope to get around to. Schedule time this summer to accomplish and complete some of those DIY projects you have pinned. Even cooking a new recipe, get the kids involved and try something new.

Jelly Belly Factory

The Jelly Belly Factory is a fun tour to do with kids. Free self-guided tours allow you to explore the ¼ mile journey above the factory at your own pace. The Jelly Belly Factory is located in Fairfield halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento off I-80 and Highway 12.
The Fountains at Roseville

The Fountains is a beautiful shopping center that also has a toddler playground and splash pad. Train Rides are available for FREE on Tuesday’s. It only cost $2 per child the other days of the week. The train runs 11 AM to 6 PM. You can stay updated if you follow the Fountains on Social Media of other events they have.

Some more of my local ideas: Old Sacramento, Historic Downtown Placerville, Old Folsom, American River Bike Trail, California State Capitol, Nimbus Fish Hatchery, Folsom Lake (parking fee).

Those are some ideas of what I consider outings or activities, and of course you can come up with another entire list of things to do at home like blow bubbles, chalk art, modeling clay creations, ride bikes, etc. If you need more ideas Pinterest has a ton.

Thank you for reading if you’ve enjoyed the content you’ve read above please share with your friends.

We love finding great deals on our summer activity items by browsing and stocking up on things like outdoor and entertainment gear.


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